Friday, May 15, 2015

My shower epiphany

I had an epiphany this morning in the shower.

I've been reading Eugene Peterson's book, The Pastor, which is his memoir about becoming and being a pastor. He begins the book by looking at how his upbringing shaped him into a pastor. Reading his story got me thinking about mine.

I grew up an Army brat. Maybe it's because I didn't know better, but I loved moving around, living everywhere from California to Germany. Moving 10 times before I turned 18 shaped me in ways that I won't get into here.

My epiphany had to do with attending military chapels. When we lived in Germany we really only had two churches to choose from: The Catholic Mass, or the Protestant service. They shared the same building. My parents were from Baptist and Presbyterian backgrounds so we really only had one choice.

Each Sunday we would worship with people who were different from us, but who had one thing in common: We were Christians who were trying to love and follow Jesus. We didn't agree with everything. Sometimes we had good chaplains. Sometimes we had not-so-good chaplains. But we figured out how to get along. We worshiped Jesus, even if the worship style was a bit uncomfortable. We focused on what we had in common more than what we disagreed about. Everybody tried to do their part to make the chapel a church.

We live a church culture in America that's defined by choice. Consumerism has infected the church so deeply that we think choice is normal. This is a topic for another day, but I think consumerism is going to eventually kill the church in America. It's a disease.

The way church feeds our consumerism is not only by offering all kinds of ministries to meet people's needs, but by changing how we, as Christians, think about church. Now we think we need certain things: A certain worship style, a certain Bible translation/interpretation, a children's ministry, a youth ministry, a women's ministry, a men's ministry, a Christian pre-school/school, a young-at-heart ministry, a ministry to goats, a ministry to (fill in the blank).

Be honest with yourself: How many of you think you need a children's ministry for your kids? How many of you think you need a youth ministry for your teens? How many of you think you need some form of religious goods and services that the church provides for you? 

It's not that those ministries are bad, but do we need them? None of them were available during the first century. Most of them aren't available in most churches around the world. Heck, America is really the only country where "choice" is even an option.

It's ironic that in our land of choice and options that the church is shrinking, but in places where choice isn't even a thought, the church is growing.

My epiphany was that my lack of choice in church in my formative years contributes to my anti-consumeristic approach to church today. It's one reason Hub City doesn't offer what other churches offer. It's why I'm so angered by church-hopping. It's why I'm becoming more and more anti-church-growth (even thought I desperately want to see Jesus grow His Church).

I've heard and I know that we need to swim in the culture we're in. But what if that culture is taking us somewhere we don't need to go? What if Jesus is calling us to a counter-cultural way of living and being church and doing church where consumerism doesn't have a place at the table?

Maybe then we'd focus on loving one another, making disciples and building the kingdom. Isn't that what we're supposed to be doing anyway?

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